Rep. Chris Taylor (D) resigned from the Wisconsin State Assembly on August 1 to be sworn in as the new Branch 12 judge on the Dane County Circuit Court that same day. Taylor fills the vacancy created by Jill Karofsky’s election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Karofsky left the circuit court to be sworn in as a state supreme court justice on August 1.
Taylor fills the third recent vacancy on the 17-branch Dane County Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over the state capital of Madison. Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed her to the court in June. He also appointed Mario White and Jacob Frost to the court that month. White filled the Branch 7 vacancy on the circuit court left by the resignation of William Hanrahan, who resigned to become an administrative law judge in March of this year. Frost filled the Branch 9 vacancy created by the retirement of judge Richard Niess. Judicial positions on the court are nonpartisan.
A fourth vacancy occurred on August 4, when Branch 12 judge Peter Anderson resigned. Gov. Evers is seeking applications for that and a fifth anticipated vacancy, which will occur when judge Shelley Gaylord resigns effective August 31.
Taylor, Frost, White, and the two pending appointees will each serve on the court for a term ending July 31, 2021. They must stand for retention elections in the spring of next year in order to serve full six-year terms on the court.
Maryland Sen. Andrew Serafini (R) resigned from the state legislature on August 1, citing the demands of his more than decade-long tenure in state government as a motivating factor. Serafini represented District 2A in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2009 to 2015, assuming office in the Maryland State Senate in February 2015.
Serafini wrote in a letter to his senate colleagues that “leaving my family on a Monday and not returning home until Friday late afternoon” took a toll on him. He also wrote, “Frankly, being a Republican from a rural area has also worn on me.” Before he resigned, Serafini was one of 15 Republican senators in the 47-seat chamber. Democrats have held a majority in the chamber since at least 1990.
Governor Larry Hogan (R) will appoint Serafini’s replacement from a list of candidates recommended by Republican committee officials in the district. The appointee will serve the remainder of Serafini’s unexpired term, which is set to end on January 10, 2023.
On July 30, the U.S. Supreme Court put on hold a previous ruling allowing for electronic signatures and delaying a signature deadline. The court ruled in favor of Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) and granted an emergency stay on a lower court’s order until the appeal process is finalized. The lower court’s ruling had allowed Reclaim Idaho, the sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, to gather signatures electronically and extended the signature deadline.
Reclaim Idaho’s initiative was designed to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000; increase the corporate income tax rate; and create and fund the Quality Education Fund.
In a statement posted to the campaign’s Facebook page, Luke Mayville of Reclaim Idaho said, “We are shocked that the Court has made this extraordinary intervention rather than let the normal appeals process run its course. … Regretfully, we see no other option than to suspend our signature drive.”
Chief Justice Roberts was joined by Justice Alito, Justice Gorsuch, and Justice Kavanaugh in granting the emergency stay that applies to all previous lower court orders in the case. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. The published opinion and dissent did not state how Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan voted. The dissenting judges argued that the Court had intervened too early in the appeal process.
In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “[T]he State is likely to suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. Right now, the preliminary injunction disables Idaho from vindicating its sovereign interest in the enforcement of initiative requirements that are likely consistent with the First Amendment.” He added, “Nothing in the Constitution requires Idaho or any other state to provide for ballot initiatives. And the claims at issue here challenge the application of only the most typical sort of neutral regulations on ballot access.”
In response to the ruling, Governor Little said, “I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld Idaho’s sovereignty over its election and initiative processes. It is important that initiatives follow the laws set by the Idaho Legislature so we can ensure those initiatives that get on the ballot are legitimate and have significant support throughout Idaho.”
Reclaim Idaho filed the lawsuit back in June arguing that the state’s social distancing restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible for the campaign to collect signatures, and therefore the state violated the petitioners’ First Amendment rights. A U.S. district judge granted Reclaim Idaho a preliminary injunction that gave the campaign 48 more days to gather signatures and temporary permission to use electronic signatures. The governor appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied his emergency stay request but expedited the hearing process. The court is expected to hear oral arguments on August 13.
Thirteen of the 26 states that permit statewide initiative and/or referendum featured at least one lawsuit challenging ballot measure deadlines and signature requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic. The subjects of the lawsuits include the use of electronic signatures, notarization requirements, signature deadlines, and signature requirements.
Incumbent Gov. Mike Parson won the Republican gubernatorial primary in Missouri Tuesday night. With 4% of precincts reporting, he received 77% of the vote. Three other candidates ran. The Associated Press called the race at 8:11 p.m. Central Time.
At 5pm local time on July 31, North Carolina Rep. Debra Conrad (R) resigned from her position in the state legislature. She was first elected to represent District 74 in the North Carolina House in 2012.
Conrad didn’t specify the reason for her departure in her resignation letter, but told various media outlets that she is exploring lobbying roles. Upon the announcement of her resignation, Conrad said, “Lobbying is one of the exciting opportunities I am considering, as I have too much energy and passion for politics to retire. I look forward to being back in Raleigh in a new role next year.”
State legislators in North Carolina are required to have a six-month period between serving in the legislature as an elected official and registering as a lobbyist.
Conrad’s departure creates the fourth vacancy in the North Carolina House of Representatives this year and the eighth in the state legislature. July saw two other state legislators resign, former Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D) on July 16 and former Sen. Andy Wells (R) on July 27. Farmer-Butterfield left the legislature to take another state government position, whereas Wells did not give his reason for resigning beyond exploring unspecified opportunities outside the legislature.
Vacancies in the North Carolina General Assembly are filled by gubernatorial appointment. The governor must make an appointment from a recommended list of candidates selected by party committee members of the party who last held the seat. Of the eight vacancies that have occurred this year in the General Assembly, four of the seats were last held by Republican legislators and four were held by Democratic legislators. Of the four that have thus far been filled, three seats are currently held by a Democrat and one is held by a Republican. Heading into this year’s elections, the Republican Party holds a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.
More than seven months after he disclosed his plans to resign, Rep. Brian Bosma (R) stepped down from the Indiana House of Representatives on July 31. Bosma first made the announcement in November 2019 that he planned to resign from the state legislature at the end of the 2020 legislative session, which ended in March.
Bosma, who had represented District 88 in the chamber since 1986, was the longest-standing state Speaker of the House in Indiana’s history. He first served as speaker from 2005 to 2006 and again from 2011 until spring of this year. Bosma stepped down from his leadership position on March 9 in anticipation of his resignation from the legislature. House Republicans selected Rep. Todd Huston (R) of District 37 to replace Bosma as speaker.
Bosma’s resignation creates the only vacancy in the Republican-controlled chamber. A caucus of Republican Party committee officials from HD 88 will appoint Bosma’s replacement, who will serve the remainder of his unexpired term set to end on the same day as the general election: November 3, 2020.
In the November 2018 elections, the chamber’s Republican majority decreased from 70-30 to 67-33. All 100 seats are up for election this year.
Amid an ongoing federal investigation, the Ohio House of Representatives voted unanimously on July 30 to remove Rep. Larry Householder (R) from his leadership position as house speaker. State representatives introduced the motion for removal shortly after a federal grand jury indicted Householder on racketeering charges.
The House voted 55-38 that same day to select Bob Cupp (R) as the new speaker. House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes issued a statement that indicated no members of the Democratic Caucus voted for Cupp. In his address to the chamber, Cupp said, “It is a great privilege to lead this chamber. Sorry it is in such difficult and trying and unprecedented times as this, however, but I pledge to do so honorably and fairly and humbly.”
Both Householder and Cupp are running for re-election this year. Householder advanced unopposed from the April 28 Republican primary in District 72 and is running unopposed in the general election on November 3. Cupp ran unopposed in the District 4 Republican primary and faces Libertarian candidate Christina Marie Holloway in the general election.
Householder, along with four others, was arrested on July 21 and charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme. Householder was accused of collecting more than $60 million in exchange for legislation that would bail out two nuclear plants.
The Santa Fe County Commission appointed Tara Lujan (D) to the New Mexico House of Representatives on July 23. Lujan fills the District 48 seat vacated by Linda Trujillo (D) on July 9, when Trujillo resigned in order to focus on full-time work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lujan will serve in the New Mexico legislature until the end of the year. Since Trujillo was running for re-election when she resigned, the Democratic Central Committee in Santa Fe County will also select a replacement candidate for the November 3 ballot. Before she resigned, Trujillo advanced unopposed from the June 2 primary election. No candidates from other parties may be nominated to the November ballot, as no candidates from other parties filed to run in the district before the filing deadline passed.
New Mexico has a Democratic state government trifecta. In the November 2018 elections, the New Mexico House of Representatives’ Democratic majority increased from 38-31 (with one vacancy) to 46-24. All 70 seats in the chamber are up for election this year.
Jill Karofsky, who won election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 7 of this year, will be sworn in while running an ultramarathon race on Saturday. She plans to stop at mile 35 of a 100-mile race for a socially-distanced ceremony over which Justice Rebecca F. Dallet will preside.
Karofsky defeated incumbent Daniel Kelly with 55.2% of the vote to Kelly’s 44.7% in April’s nonpartisan election. Although the race was officially nonpartisan, Kelly has been a member of the court’s conservative majority and received support from conservative groups. Karofsky said she would join the court’s liberal minority and received support from liberal groups.
Of the seven justices on the state supreme court prior to Karofsky’s swearing-in, five justices were elected in nonpartisan elections and two, including Kelly, were appointed by Republican governor Scott Walker. Karofsky’s win reduced the size of the court’s conservative majority to 4-3, meaning that the 2023 election will determine control of the court, assuming no justices leave the bench early. A Kelly win would have prevented control of the court from changing until the 2026 election at the earliest.
Natrona County commissioners appointed Kevin O’Hearn (R) to the Wyoming House of Representatives on July 28 to fill the seat vacated when Carl “Bunky” Loucks (R) resigned in early July. O’Hearn was sworn into office on July 30. He will represent District 59 in the chamber for the remainder of Loucks’ unexpired term, which is set to end on January 3, 2021.
O’Hearn’s professional experience includes working as the building inspector and assistant town manager for Mills, Wyoming. Several commissioners cited his tenure in local government as their motivation for the appointment.
O’Hearn had already filed to run for Loucks’ seat this year and will face David Carpenter and Leah Juarez in the Republican primary on August 18. Loucks, who did not file to run for re-election, said he resigned to focus on running his business. No candidates filed to run in the district’s Democratic primary.
In 40 of the 60 races for the Wyoming House of Representatives occurring this year, no candidates filed in the Democratic primary. No candidates filed for the Republican primary in just five of the 60 districts.